Even “ugly” is beautiful in Chinese

       Story by Farida, from Afghanistan, and Yuqi from China.                                                      HOME Ω PAGE

Ugly PM

“ugly” (traditional script) 

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THIS year I stayed with Mrs. Chips and her husband during  my winter break. One day Yuqi, Mrs. Chips’s Chinese student who is also studying in the U.S., came over to her house. We had so much fun with Yuqi.  We made a snowman, we went on a walk and, after dinner, we played a fun game. Here’s what we did. First, we asked Yuqi to teach us some words in Chinese. It was very fascinating to me to learn that every character in Chinese looks like the thing it is describing. For example, the character for “sheep” in Chinese looks like a real sheep! Then we asked Yuqi to write the words “fat” and “thin” and let us guess which one was fat and which one was thin. He also wrote the words “hot”, “warm”, and “cold”. Finally, we asked him to write the words “ugly” and “beautiful” in Chinese. We really laughed because the word “ugly” looks very beautiful in Chinese! 

     It was special to have Yuqi teach us. He made all of us smile. He is very kind and super smart. 

     Now, if you want to have some of the fun we had, you are more than welcome to play our game yourself. First look at the groups of Chinese characters below on the left that Yuqi wrote for us. Then guess which character is which word. (The answers are at the very bottom.) —Farida 

Group One


beautiful / ugly

Group Two


cold / warm / hot

Group Three


fat / thin

DURING my December holiday break from school I got together with some of my friends. We made a snowman, had pizza, and then I taught my friends how to make some Chinese characters! Teaching Chinese was one of the most fabulous experiences I ever had. I was surprised when Farida said that the word “ugly” looks beautiful in Chinese, because I never thought about it that way before. Writing Chinese characters and explain- ing the meaning of them actually made me look back and think about my own culture. It is pretty amazing to think that ancient people could come up with lots of Chinese symbols and make the system work perfectly. 

     I believe that Chinese is the hardest language to learn, but   the beauty of it is in the meanings. The meanings make all the characters come alive.  Here are some examples (below) of how Chinese characters developed. I hope you can figure them out and I hope you enjoyed learning some of our characters. —Yuqi

Evolution of Chinese characters:

Answers to quiz HERE.

 ©InterestEng. July 2013  §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff or used with permission.  §  To contact us:  go.gently.on@gmail.com